Yesterday, on 8 March, SOLIDAR Foundation participated in the panel discussion organised by European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) in the European Parliament. The conference, called “Students are not consumers”, was divided into two panels.
The first panel brought together professors and experts who described the most disastrous effects of the commodification of education in Member States. The panelists criticised the market-driven orientation of universities, as well as research done exclusively on demand and mostly financed by private companies to answer labour market needs. Additionally, the non-transparent ranking of universities that does not indicate the quality of the programmes and sets tough competition among the institutes, was heavily criticised and labelled as outdated by all panelists.
The second panel, which SOLIDAR Foundation attended, discussed the EU response to the problems of privatisation. The panelists affirmed that the situation in Europe is critical and that the current system does not at all fight inequalities but on the contrary makes the gap wider. The impact of privatisation on Lifelong Learning is one of the main work streams of SOLIDAR’s Education and Lifelong Learning Forum. We argued that in order to stop privatisation we should introduce values-based procurement and look at the quality of services that non-profit learning providers are offering in comparison to private entities driven only by profit and results. Lifelong learning is crucial to increase the quality of public education especially in regards to teachers and educators who need constant support in order to manage diversity in classes as well as new trends in education.
The panelists agreed that the necessary EU response is obvious: more investment in education and training. In light of the ongoing MFF negotiations, it is crucial that funding for programmes such as Erasmus+ increases but attention needs to be paid to where the money comes from. The increase in the funding of one programme by cutting funds to another (for example the European Social Fund) would be a lose-lose solution for everyone and would put students from a low socio-economic background in a worse position and with even less access to quality higher education.